Summit Snapshot: DAA Accountability Stakeholders Discuss Casework Experiences and Lessons Learned

July 11, 2016

Big Idea: Companies in the interest-based advertising ecosystem gain useful insights and understanding of their responsibilities from working with the DAA Accountability Partners as they enforce DAA Principles.

Photo: DAA Summit 2016 Accountability Panel Moderator Michael A. Signorelli of Venable LLP

Self-regulatory industry education and enforcement of Digital Advertising Alliance Principles have the flexibility to keep up with the constantly changing media platforms and the resulting novel formats for interest-based advertising. To meet this ongoing challenge, the DAA Program and its Accountability Partners [Direct Marketing Association and Council of Better Business Bureaus] provide casework that serves as an evergreen resource to all participants in the advertising ecosystem.  Each DAA enforcement represents a learning experience, not only for the companies involved but for all stakeholders.  Accountability builds a stronger marketplace by building understanding and trust between companies and the consumers with whom they engage.

“I don’t think there’s another self-regulatory program or industry that has more cops on the beat,” said Michael Signorelli, partner, Venable LLP and counsel, Digital Advertising Alliance, who moderated the panel. “We have the BBB, the DMA, and the NAI [DAA co-founding association Network Advertising Initiative] all helping us ensure that we have responsible data practices.”  NAI CEO Leigh Freund introduced the panel discussion.

Enforcement Ensures Standards are Understood – and That Benefits Both Businesses and Consumers

Photo:  Genie Barton of the Council of Better Business Bureau and its Advertising Self-Regulatory Council

DAA’s Accountability Partners are tasked with maintaining cross-industry-consensus standards – and by doing so, provide helpful insight on how best to comply with DAA Principles. Genie Barton, vice president and director, Online Interest-based Advertising Accountability Program, Council of Better Business Bureaus, said, “If you come to me before I come to you, even if you’re totally out of compliance…we will not bring a case (against you)…We will confidentially counsel you and help you come into compliance, and we will do that in what we term, a ‘commercially reasonable time’.” She reminded the audience that the Accountability Partners seek to ensure that there’s substance behind the DAA Principles, so when companies “take the [DAA] pledge of compliance [it stands] as a real indicator of companies’ sincerity in following self-regulation.”

Barton also highlighted three new cases from its important accountability work – the first three that have concerned compliance with DAA’s Mobile Guidance.  Those cases are discussed here and demonstrate our program’s ability to enforce DAA Principles as new platforms and technologies evolve – particularly in the mobile marketplace.

Native advertising provider Taboola has taken full advantage of DAA’s Accountability Partners as a business resource, according to the panel.  Shelly Paioff, deputy general counsel and head of legal, U.S., Taboola, spoke of a new program that her team intended to launch and admitted her initial concerns with complying with privacy regulations. “I got Genie’s email address and reached out to her,” Paioff explained, “Now I feel very confident when our advertising partners ask us ‘Are you compliant with the DAA principles?’ and I know that we are because Genie helped me.”

Photos:  (Top) Taboola’s Shelly Paioff and (Lower) Facebook’s Stephen Satterfield

Both Shelly Paioff and Stephen Satterfield, manager, privacy and public policy, Facebook, support Barton’s statement that the Accountability Partners strive to assist companies with compliance, rather than bring cases against them. Satterfield stated, “We are more or less in constant dialogue with Genie and the DMA.” Speaking of privacy and the DAA Program, he said, “It’s a lingua franca that we use not only in talking to partners, but to policymakers and regulators, and it’s helpful because the concepts are complicated, but the language in which we can talk about them, thanks to the DAA principles, is actually fairly straightforward.”

Education through Enforcement also Fostered in Accountability Reporting

Photo: Zeta Interactive’s Rick Buck at DAA Summit 2016

According to Rick Buck, senior vice president, privacy, Zeta Interactive, and a member of the DMA Committee on Ethical Business Practice (also known as the Ethics Operating Committee), the DMA received approximately 1100 complaints from consumers in 2015 through its interest-based advertising (IBA) complaint mechanism. Of those 1100 complaints, the vast majority were resolved through an initial exchange with DMA, in advance of any Ethics Operating Committee involvement. In fact, many complaints indicated a misunderstanding of the medium by the consumer – they didn’t pertain to IBA, but to other digital advertising concerns (content and format of ads, for example).  [Note:  The DMA recently issued a full 2016 report on its 2015 accountability program activities.]

Overall, industry and consumer education, working hand in hand, are essential to ensure understanding of and accountability to DAA Principles. “Marketers have stepped up their game,” Buck said, “because [in most queries handled by DMA] they didn’t understand that they were breaking the rules. Consumers have become aware of how the game is played.” Education produced this mutual mindfulness and transparency, which bodes well for the future, he indicated.

Privacy is Ubiquitous – the DAA Principles Keep Pace

“This whole concept of privacy has become…ubiquitous; it’s part of the DNA of what people in this room do,” Rick Buck said. The need and desire for transparency has increased, in part, due to Europe’s stand on privacy, and the resulting influence on the U.S.

Consequently, Genie Barton said, “The DAA has evolved, so the Principles have really responded to where the consumers are by transposing the principles into whatever new formats, new concepts are being used for interest-based advertising.”

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